I don’t know if it was a defining moment or just one more thing that makes me who I am. But it was certainly scary and made me afraid for a long, long time.
It was about 25 years ago, on May 5 or 6th 1984, I can’t remember the exact date anymore. We had been hanging around trying to figure out what to do. Finally, it was decided that we would walk all the way up to Queen Anne’s corner to get pizza. But along the way many of our group lost their enthusiasm for the long walk ahead of us and bailed. The party that remained was myself, my new best friend, C and T, we made it to Cushing Street where T departed. We continued on to where the road forks, C went one way and we went the other.
The street was dark, quiet and without houses. A few cars passed us and we chatted nervously. I don’t know if I told her that when I am scared I say things like “Easter Bunny, Christmas, Santa Claus,” before or after I saw him, but I vividly remember saying it.
He was walking on the same side of the street, in the same direction and as a result my heart beat slowed ever so slightly as compared to when I had first spied him. “Same side of the street is a good thing,” I told myself. We walked on. We saw a white car parked on the opposite side of the road, head in. It appeared to be a legitimate place for a car, or so I convinced myself. “Easter Bunny, Christmas, Santa Claus,” the chant went on, until I heard the snap of a twig.
In a nanosecond, adrenaline was coursing through my body and it propelled me away from the sound. I was on the inside, closest to the woods; my friend was on the street side, as I ran, I knocked her down. As soon as I knew she was on the ground, I stopped. The only thing I could do is scream. I screamed as loud and as primal as I have ever screamed in my life, either before or since. I prayed a car would come down the street while I was straddling the double yellow line, screaming and wetting my pants in terror.
It was futile, no houses, no lights, no cars. He grabbed her by her long hay colored hair. I could not kick him; I would have kicked her in the face. I could not run; I would have left her. No one would hear me scream. No one would see me as I followed this man, who was dragging my screaming friend, by her hair; into the woods...I was defeated.
As I followed my head snapped back and forth willing a car to appear, until we were engulfed by the woods and no longer visible from the road. I knelt on the slope of the embankment, as instructed, facing him. He sat on my friend’s back as she lay face down on the ground. She was still screaming. He told her to shut the fuck up. Curiously, I was cool as a cucumber. He told me to make her stop screaming. I asked my friend to please be quiet. I remained calm as he ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. I did so, defiantly and turned back around. He ordered me again to turn around and put my hands behind my back. Again, I did so defiantly and turned back around. As he tied my hands behind my back, the words “What are you going to do rape us?” flew out of my mouth. I said it twice more, taunting him. I recall evoking God’s name, but not specifically what I said.
Some time passed, I don’t remember how much time, and he got off of her back. He did not try to retie my hands as I had wriggled out of the rope. He moved up the embankment and said, “I don’t know why I did this. I have never done anything like this before.” We took our opportunity and told him that we would stay right where we were for one hour so he could get away, we would give him all of our money. We swore we would not tell anyone, our parents, the police, no one. And with that he was gone. I vaguely remember hearing his car speed off. I don't remember if we spoke to eachother or just sat in silence, the deafening silence of my heart beat.
We waited, as promised, I don’t know that it was a full hour or not, but we waited. As soon as we felt ample time had passed, we ran all the way back to her house. She lost one shoe in the woods and another as we scrambled over a stone wall. Her hair was falling out in clumps. We told no one and did not sleep at all that night. Or the next night. Or the next. There was no where that I was unafraid. I was scared while standing at the bus stop at 8 o’clock in the morning.
The days that followed are a bit of a blur. I finally told my parents, my dad, on Thursday of the following week. He took me immediately to the police station. I had to retell the story and provide a description of my assailant. I was positive he had a mustache the next day after the attack, but now, I was not so sure. The detective asked if I could take him to where it happened. He drove my dad and me to the place. My friend had lost her shoe so I knew I could find the spot.
We found the tie that he used to tie my hands, my friend’s shoe and a noose. The detective took pictures and collected all the evidence. He said that this guy is just beginning and that we were very VERY lucky. The next woman who he attacked would not be as lucky.
My parents sent me to a therapist to ensure that my mental health remained intact. My friend and I went once together and I went by myself a few more times. The therapist explained to me why it was that I was able to remain calm, after the intial fright. She told me that I was so scared that my body reversed itself and made me act completely calm, which is why I was able to taunt this man. I don't remember much about that woman, but I remember that.
I only heard from the detective one more time, a few months later. I was at an ice cream store when I was approached by a man who asked me if he knew me from somewhere. I freaked out and called the detective. He came right down and questioned the man, as it turns out, he was a local drunk. He brought me home and that was the last I saw of him.
It has been so many years now and my fear has abated somewhat, but I do not ever put myself in potentially dangerous situations. I try hard not to be out, alone, at night in an unpopulated area. I certainly do not walk at night.
My friend and I are no longer close as we were back then and I know not if she remembers this day. This experience does not define me, but is part of me, it makes me who I am. I wonder if it is the same for my friend.